by Matthew Félix
Plot: Felix takes a tragedy and molds a story of actions and reactions that flow from one to another in this highly crafted gem.
Prose/Style: Felix's simple yet expressive prose invites readers into Pablo's world view that remains steady and fascinating throughout the novel.
Originality: Felix's novel about a sensitive young man searching for himself in his rural hometown keeps pages turning with its enchanting prose and cast of characters.
Character Development: The novel is highly character-driven and each page catapults Pablo through soul-searching and formative questions that lead him to his final decision.
by Kathryn Guare
Plot: The plot is initially slow moving, but picks up the pace with each successive chapter, the storyline moving with a fluid grace. The story arc possesses a slow intensity; progress meets the pain of leaving the homeland.
Prose/Style: The prose here is imbued with a style reflective of classic Irish literature. The hope and spirit of these characters hops off the pages. The writing reflects stark emotion.
Originality: The originality of the text is apparent throughout the book. This is a spin on boy-meets-girl, specifically the budding relationship between Tom & Brigid.
Character Development: The characters are compelling from the very beginning of the story, quickly gaining the readers’ interest and sympathy. They remain endearing to the audience throughout the plot.
Blurb: This is the refreshing tale of adapting to the ever expanding changes in one’s world, while finding love in unlikely places. Love, laughter and loss throughout. An excellent read that is constantly engaging and enthralling.
Plot: This book is highly unusual in format – it’s not a novel, and more a fable. The angel instructs a young boy in the important things in life. The angel’s tale itself is gently instructive, but not pedantic. The beings that help represent these lessons - and show the boy how to attain these gifts - are quite wonderful and whimsical: a bee, a bird, and a white dolphin, among them.
Prose/Style: This is very smooth writing, even funny at times. The seven lessons flow together well. A copyeditor might help with some punctuation issues.
Originality: This is a highly original concept. Few fables are published these days for adults, and the advice in the lessons is well timed for today's readers.
Character Development: The characters are charming and/or evil, but the reader doesn’t quite get to know them over the course of the book. Perhaps the most fleshed out characters are the boy and the musician, Coalhole Custer.
by Charles L. Ross
Plot: The plot expertly straddles the line between a mystery and a coming-of-age story. This is an excellent story, with twists that keeps readers guessing until the very end.
Prose/Style: The story's tone and verbiage makes readers feel like they are listening to a storied gentleman of letters tell bon mots about his life. The prose is appropriate for the tale and very well executed.
Originality: While the story isn’t blisteringly unique, there is enough uncertainty and interesting payoffs to keep readers engaged. The final twist to the mystery was delightfully fresh.
Character Development: While taking a more in-depth look at characters like Timmy would have been welcome, each character felt like a unique and memorable individual.
by Dori Ann Dupre
Plot:While the plot does not contain a lot of riveting twists and turns, there is a certain intrigue to it. However, it would benefit the story to feel less like a passive narration of events and more like a series of events actively happening to the characters.
Prose/Style:The author has penned the story of her characters beautifully. The entire narrative is devoid of major typographical and other errors. This author knows her way around words, but could focus on making the language less passive.
Originality:The premise of 'running away from the past' and 'new identities hiding something terrible' are not exactly novel. But the story is much more than just this, focusing also on the many parent-child relationships.
Character Development:The characters were three-dimensional and well developed, from the major players to the very minor ones. None of the characters possessed stereotypical traits, as is prone to happen with minor characters.
by Joe Costanzo
Plot: Overall, this book is absolutely captivating - it blends philosophy and mystery into a story that feels well-paced and fresh. The somewhat mushy ending might feel unfulfilling to some readers.
Prose/Style: The impeccable spelling and grammar was welcome and delightful. The style was sophisticated, and so smooth that even the most complex topics were easily understood.
Originality: It's easy to find novels where middle-aged professors are solving mysteries or falling into bed with beautiful women. But while the concept wasn't groundbreaking, the author found innovative ways to keep the reader invested and guessing.
Character Development: The majority of the characters were well developed and clearly defined. Yet there were some small bumps in the road: Audrey's email felt like something Edward would write, and the reader is often left wondering why an unrealistic number of women were suddenly trying to sleep with an adjunct professor.
by Patricia J. Boomsma
Plot: This story takes place in England and places throughout Europe in the 12th century. The Christians are trying to regain land now occupied by Jews and Moors. The role of women is incredibly limited here; according to Christian belief, women are "the cause of all evil." Christians, in general, are not shown in a good light in this book. However, descriptions of the living conditions, food, daily work and battle are both detailed and intriguing.
Prose/Style: The text is smooth, the chronology is clear (each chapter states its month or season and year), and there are few diversions or errors.
Originality: A historical novel about this period, about a strong young woman who doesn't fit the 12th century Christian mold, is unique and fresh. For its genre, this feels original. The material about herbal healing is fascinating.
Character Development: Cate is incredibly mature for a young teenager, but, given the times, her lifespan would have been short so this may be realistic. She is deeply portrayed, if a bit too perfect, wise and kind. Her two brothers, Willard and Sperling, are extremely strict Christians and, in the end, both choose religion over family.
by Ralph Cissne
Plot: The protagonist seeks purpose and happiness in this soul-searching escapade on the club circuit in Los Angeles. Contemplative, self-occupied, and meandering, every action sparks interest yet leaves a questionable sense of reason as the story progresses with insufficient motivation.
Prose/Style: An admirable command of language brings each scene to vibrant life, rendering every mundane passage riveting and ordinary situations fascinating. Polished and sophisticated, meticulous prose enhances the emotional impact of this intellectual mainstream novel.
Originality: Club Los Angeles takes on a stereotypical personality that wraps itself around every character in this familiar portrayal of striving and struggling poets, musicians, and comedians. Though an absorbing book, the glorified culture of this dominant metropolis overwhelms the story, even in description, a phenomenon seen whenever California’s City of Angels plays a significant role in determining the outcome.
Character Development: The depiction of David Bishop and his supporting characters takes realism to a human level of expertise—believable and genuine. Created to elicit compassion and empathy, these pillars of a weak storyline make the reading experience worthwhile.
by Kathleen Cecilia Nesbitt
Plot:This novel is about incest and abuse survival; it is painful to read, partly because of the subject matter and partly because the storytelling is simultaneously gritty and opaque. The reading experience is a heavy weight, and could be made less confusing and overwhelming by focusing on the main story arc and characters without overloading the reader.
Prose/Style:The author has a gift for writing beautiful, detailed prose and embellished, vivid descriptions.
Originality:The story itself is not wholly novel, but the way it is told is very original. The primary point of the storytelling is to provide an experience of being so immersed in the narrator's point of view that it feels like the reader is drowning in the emotional and psychological burdens of trauma.
Character Development:The characters are portrayed realistically, but they are not particularly likable or compelling. The final line of the story is uplifting, but arriving at this destination somehow fails to provide enough of a payoff for everything the main character (and the reader) has been put through.
by James Hutson-Wiley
Plot: The plot of “The Sugar Merchant” flows along steadily at an upbeat pace. As the title suggests, the book focuses very heavily on trade and commerce. It is, essentially, a journal of an ancient trader over several years. There are momentary sparks of action, but everything else is fairly mundane. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the look at the other side of the Muslim/Catholic conflicts of the first century.
Prose/Style: Hutson-Wiley's prose is simple, but it effectively captures the atmosphere and voices of the historical people and places. The book would benefit from a light to medium copy edit.
Originality: The originality of the book is in the perspective. Books about the Holy Wars and pilgrimages are common, but are usually told from the point of view of the crusaders. The Sugar Merchant gives readers a look at the other side of the story, even if it is told by a Catholic monk.
Character Development: The characters are all fairly standard, and their personalities would be enhanced by some more delving into their origin stories, motives, and individual emotions – nevertheless, they are realistic and memorable.
by Nicole Macaulay
Plot: The plot follows many existing conventions - lonely but good-hearted heroine, travel as a route to self-discovery, unwittingly getting caught up in someone else's crime story - but it's nicely structured and paced. It keeps being fun.
Prose/Style: There is a certain breathlessness to Lucy's internal narration and frequent exclamations of wonder at being in a foreign city, and the emails from her doting, somewhat smothering family are pitch-perfect. There's a sweetness and innocence to the narrator that may make this more appropriate for a YA format.
Originality: Plenty of other books and films have put a heroine in a foreign setting, caught up in events she doesn't quite understand, though this is far more charming and wide-eyed than other comparable stories.
Character Development: Lucy's innocence and frustration with a life in which she does just what is expected of her are plausible and winning, if a little on the '"gee whiz" side. As she takes action, gets mobile and opens her eyes to the wider world and to people she would never have met otherwise, she grows and changes in a way that is easy for the reader to root for.
by Cassandra Austen
Plot:The novel’s major points of tension are introduced gradually, and Austen captures the stakes of the story without veering into melodrama. As the novel comes to a close, however, some vital exchanges between the two main characters can come off as hasty. The ending could use the same nuance that was granted to the beginning of the novel.
Prose/Style:Austen’s prose is fluid and neat, albeit a bit typical of the historical fiction genre. Still, Austen’s ability to capture both Lady Catherine’s and Captain Averbury’s perspectives seems effortless, and her rich narrative vignettes supplement the stakes of the novel quite nicely.
Originality:Austen’s novel is fairly original, although it does present a few trademark tropes of the historical fiction genre. Overall, Austen’s ability to tap into each character’s highly individual point of view allows for a unique perspective on plot points that might otherwise read as cliché.
Character Development: Lady Catherine and Captain Averbury both read as nuanced, believably flawed characters. Catherine’s disdain for her upbringing, Averbury’s troubled past, and their romantic tension with one another are illustrated capably, providing an enticing and believable narrative arc for readers to enjoy.
Blurb:A thrilling hybrid of mystery, romance, and 19th century scene-setting -- sure to enthrall fans of historical fiction.
by Charles L. Ross
Plot: The plot could use some more attention to backstory and worldbuilding. The boy grows up; the father and son become estranged; the boy has his first and continuing gay relationships. He enters therapy to discover and better understand what happened when he was a young boy.
Prose/Style: The prose is straightforward and smooth, with few errors. The story is told chronologically. The story engages the reader, but the prose feels a bit journalistic, or more like a memoir.
Originality: This novel is a coming out story, the tale of a strained and finally estranged relationship between a father and a son. This particular situation feels new to the genre.
Character Development: The reader may not understand the characters well enough due to a lack of emotional detail from some characters. Anthony feels genuine enough in his adult life - and relationships - with other men to empathize with.
by R. D. Kardon
Plot: In “Flygirl,” Kardon tells a straightforward story about one woman aspiring to fulfill her professional dreams, as she grapples with overwhelming regrets and loss. While the nuances of Tris’s path toward becoming a plane captain can be banal, interpersonal conflicts and the heroine’s clear aspirations result in a satisfying narrative arc.
Prose/Style: Kardon writes in even, pragmatic prose that efficiently—if unremarkably—carries the story forward to its conclusion.
Originality: Though the story of a professional woman struggling to succeed in a male-dominated field is a familiar one, Kardon shows a clear understanding of the world of commercial airlines and effectively captures the unique experience of operating an aircraft.
Character Development: Kardon creates a relatable heroine in Tris, a character who, along with her grit and determination to succeed, displays a range of authentic emotions and vulnerabilities. Additional characters—including patronizing and dysfunctional colleagues—are portrayed with less subtlety.
by James Schannep
Plot: This book has three storylines and more than 50 endings. Does the reader, as a character, wish to survive or die? The choices are quite endless, but the plot itself is a bit thin. Some of the segments may be used in more than one story.
Prose/Style: The writing is fluid, with occasional grammatical errors that would be alleviated by a light proofread. The use of archaic and current seafaring terms helps put the reader into the scene.
Originality: Certainly, this is extremely clever and quite a feat in the way the endings and beginnings are organized.
Character Development: While the characters are colorful, they are somewhat stereotypical of ship's captains and mates and of pirates. They partake in some bawdy activities and sometimes speak coarsely. They are quite one-dimensional, and the reader doesn't get to know them intimately.
by W. B. Edwards
Plot: The plot itself is engaging, and the final twist is satisfying to read. The story’s twist, while gripping, appears fairly late in the book, and isn’t affirmed until the very last chapter of the novel.
Prose/Style: The dialogue reads very realistically – especially the exchanges between the children, Lonnie and Nell. Edwards is clearly attuned to her characters’ voices. The sentences, however, can be long-winded, sometimes without proper punctuation to break up the excess of clauses. An overuse of articles and transitional words (“so,” “and,” “but,” etc.) make it difficult to follow the action of each scene.
Originality: This is a general storyline that many fans of the thriller/mystery genre will recognize. With a bit more fine-tuning of character perspectives – expanding on specific psychologies, personal hang-ups, and idiosyncrasies – Edwards can develop the story’s originality even more.
Character Development: The text doesn’t seem to be rooted in one specific person’s perspective. The third-person omniscient narration grazes the surface of many characters’ POVs at once, failing to delve deeply into any detailed thoughts and musings.